This month we wrote a piece on forced adoption for Apolitical, a global platform which features innovative ideas and solutions being considered by government.
In the piece we look at a dynamic form of family intervention where biological parents remain in close contact with their children wherever possible, while highly trained social workers ensure that children in need of extra support are properly cared for, through every stage of their childhood.
The piece includes interviews with two adoptees, now adults reflecting on their lives as adopted children, as well as groundbreaking research by Joe Smeeton, Director of Social Work Education at the University of Salford and Jo Ward.
The full interviews with adoptees Emma* and James*, are added below:
“Charities such as Adoption UK do a lot of work to promote education around attachment between children and their parents or carers. Whilst this is helpful, it often approaches the issue of the attachment with the view that something traumatic has happened in the child’s life pre-adoption to cause the child to have difficulties in forming healthy relationships with caregivers and others.
The idea is usually that the trauma is to do with domestic violence, alcohol, drugs or neglect within the child’s pre-adoption family. However, this fails to recognise that the act of severing a child, either permanently or temporarily from their parents and family is, in itself, hugely traumatic for that child.
Many adoptees describe themselves and each other in relation to whether they are either in or out of “the fog”. The fog is a happy and comfortable place to be, where the adoptee sees their adoption as having had a wholly positive impact on their life and feels that it was necessary in order for them to reach certain goals, e.g. to have a good education, stable home life or get a good job.
The adoptive family who surrounds the adoptee will reinforce this view as it generally fits in with the views of the adoptive parents who feel that the adoption has been a “win, win”, with the child gaining adoptive parents and being removed from whatever problems the child’s family were facing.
Though I love my adoptive parents very much, I’m not sure if it’s a genuine love or a love which I developed through a need to survive. I was acutely aware that if I didn’t at least make efforts to try to fit in with biological strangers and play my role of daughter, there was every chance that I could be returned to foster care and be without the material and immediate advantages that adoption presented to me.
Although my adoptive parents were materially wealthy and offered me comforts such as my own bedroom and lovely family home, I suffered the stress of hiding my adoptive mother’s alcoholism from the world. Her drinking caused my adoptive father to become angry and perpetrate domestic violence upon my adoptive mum and I. It was frightening and scary, but after being told for so long that I’d been saved and needed to show gratitude for what I had, I felt I should make the best of the hand I had been dealt.
Knowing that speaking up to teachers or other adults about some of the horrors going on at home could mean that I would be removed from my adoptive family (the only family which I had a conscious memory of) felt like too much of a risk. Having already been removed (without conscious memory) from my own family at birth, loss was hugely frightening and I felt I had to hold on to my adoptive family with the tightest of grip, regardless of the difficulties we faced.
I am confident that my experience of abuse and neglect within my adoptive family is widespread. No families are immune from poverty, addiction or emotional difficulties. I knew from things my adoptive parents had said to me in the past (e.g. “why can’t you be more like your cousin?”) that they felt the pain of me not being biologically theirs and that I couldn’t replace the child they were unable to have, regardless of how hard I tried.
All of this makes me wonder why children’s hearings and social workers are keen to put the wheels in motion to move towards adoption in the modern day (e.g gradual reduction of contact with their families) when it serves no real or guaranteed long term benefit to the child.
Quite the opposite, the child is required to enter into a permanent, irreversible legal agreement to which they have no capacity to consent to (and to which their consent is not required). They are often required to grow up with people who (through lack of biological links) share no physical traits or characteristics. They lose a sense of self and sense of family history. They feel like flowers picked from the ground and placed into a vase – nice to look at for a while until they eventually wither, without their roots to feed and nurture them.”
“How does adoption affect a very young kid, as I was? I joke sometimes about an abandonment syndrome, and I think there is something more to it than a joke. If I’d not known I was adopted, I’d really grapple with the nature / nurture debate as I had very little in common with my adoptive parents.”
We would like to thank Emma, James and Joe for their time and kindness in speaking with us, and a thank you to Apolitical for the opportunity to highlight the issues within non-consensual adoption.
*The adoptees’ names have been changed to protect their identities.